Demonstrators mobbed a Detroit convention center on Wednesday afternoon, trying to force election officials to stop counting the ballots in the 2020 presidential election. Videos of the encounter went viral, drawing fresh condemnations down on President Donald Trump's conspiracy theories and misinformation. The demonstrators identified themselves as "poll challengers," as Trump called for in his campaign rallies, though in reality, they were trying to disrupt legitimate election proceedings.
The demonstrators chanted "stop the count" and "stop the vote" at the convention center, where Michigan ballots are still being counted. They had been led to believe that the prolonged wait time for election results was somehow illegal, though every U.S. election takes days to count. In the case of 2020, the increased number of absentee ballots due to the coronavirus pandemic only extended the usual delay.
They’re being blocked by guards at the door.November 4, 2020
In fact, the @MIGOP has so overwhelmed the Detroit vote counting room with “challengers” (most who are not lawyers), preventing actual Dem lawyers from actually getting in. Sure feels like a deliberate attempt to try to steal the election. pic.twitter.com/pIZCzUB6VH— Jordan Acker (@JordanAckerMI) November 4, 2020
Footage from the encounter shows demonstrators clashing with police officers as bystanders called out that they were in danger of trampling a bystander. When a public health official asked the small crowd to disburse due to the threat of spreading the coronavirus, many laughed and scoffed. They banged on the windows and chanted for as long as they were allowed, but ultimately election officials continued to count all the ballots as required by law.
The demonstrators showed up after the Trump campaign filed a lawsuit to try and stop the vote-counting process on Wednesday — a move that critics on both sides of the political aisle called un-Democratic. Trump has shared unfounded conspiracy theories about the election process this fall, even as judges that he appointed work to make it more convoluted.
After a statement issued by President Trump's 2020 campaign manager hinting at the possibility of a lawsuit being filed in Michigan challenging the state's ballot-counting process, Attorney General Dana Nessel's Press Secretary Ryan Jarvi issued the following response: pic.twitter.com/qPANSEGynn— Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel (@MIAttyGen) November 4, 2020
Michigan received over 3.1 million mail-in ballots, yet state law prevented the election officials from processing those ballots until Monday evening. Even then, they could only be removed from their double envelopes and unfolded, but not counted until Tuesday. These rules were put in place by a Republican-controlled state legislature, as similar rules were put in place in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, according to a report by Vox.
Although Trump lost in the state of Michigan despite these tactics, political analysts are now concerned about the impact his rhetoric is having on the public faith in elections themselves. With Americans on both sides more divided than ever, critics say it is dangerous for Trump to encourage his supporters to "challenge" the polls in person. At the time of this writing, the 2020 presidential election still does not have a clear winner.